Leopard 2A7V - the latest modification of the existing tank. KMW Photos
Since 2015, France and Germany have been working to create a promising main tank, in the future capable of replacing existing combat vehicles. The joint program MGCS (Main Combat Ground System) so far provided only for preliminary studies, and now moves to a new stage. Based on its results, the final look of the future MBT for the two countries will be determined.
To date, Germany and France have managed to sign a series of agreements defining various aspects of a promising program. The last such document appeared in December last year. It provided for the formation of the ARGE working group (Arbeitsgemeinschaft), which included German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall AG, as well as the French Nexter Defense Systems. KMW and Nexter participate in the work as a single structure - KNDS.
On May 20, the press service of Rheinmetall announced the start of a new phase of the program. Earlier, ARGE participants agreed to soon launch the scientific research work “System Architecture Definition Study - Part 1” or SADS Part 1 (“Definition of system architecture, part 1”). Now they begin the corresponding work. It is noted that this gives rise to the "demonstration" stage of the MGCS program.
KNDS Early MGCS Concept
The purpose of SADS P.1 is to study the proposed concepts and options for the appearance of the MGCS combat vehicle with the subsequent development of recommendations and requirements. It is planned to study the current and future needs of the armies of Germany and France, the economic aspects of the project, etc. The final appearance of MBT will be formed at the next stages of the program.
Research on SADS P.1 will be carried out by two countries, for which they will create a joint venture. Jobs in this organization will be distributed equally between the two states. In half will be divided and costs of 150 million euros. 18 months are allotted for all work. Thus, in the fall of 2021, KNDS and Rheinmetall will be ready for the next phase of work on MGCS.
20 year plans
Earlier, in March of this year, the German press published curious information about the plans of the Bundestag defense committee regarding the MGCS program. These plans are planned 15 years in advance and provide for the implementation of all stages of research and development work, starting with the current SADS P.1.
The launch of the first part of the SADS study will last until the fall of next year, after which its second phase will begin. By 2024, on the basis of the studies conducted, the final appearance of the promising MBT will be determined. Also during this period, the “technology demonstration phase" of the Technologiedemonstrationsphase (TDP) will begin. During these R&D activities, various components intended for installation on tanks will be tested.
For 2024-27 years. The "full demonstration phase" of the Gesamtsystemdemonstratorphase (GSDP) is planned - the construction and testing of experimental units and tanks in general. During the GSDP, they will check and fine-tune the entire promising complex, the result of which will be the formation of the final highlight of future serial armored vehicles.
In 2028, they plan to begin assembling pre-production equipment. It will pass full-scale field and military tests, during which it will have to confirm the characteristics and show the possibility of exploitation in the army. Only after this stage will the deployment of a full-fledged series begin.
The transfer of the first production MGCS to the German armed forces is scheduled for 2035. The next few years will be spent on the production of sufficient quantities of equipment, training personnel, etc. The first units equipped with promising tanks reached their initial operational readiness only by 2040.
The German Defense Committee has already calculated the estimated costs for the MGCS. For all R&D from 2020 to 2028. participating countries should spend about 1,5 billion euros. Costs will be divided in half - approximately 750 million per country. The planned costs for different stages of the program were also announced.
For the first studies in 2020-22. Germany will spend approx. 175 million euros. Some of these costs are already provided for by the military budget, but the Committee plans to request an additional 56 million. The next stages of the program, TDP, GSDP, construction and testing of pre-production equipment will require more than 500 million euros per country.
Future costs for the purchase of serial equipment have not yet been determined. This aspect of the program will be worked out later, after the end of the two stages of SADS, when the approximate cost of the finished tank becomes known. In addition, France and Germany still cannot name the required number of new tanks. The same, for obvious reasons, applies to potential foreign customers.
Appearance of the future
The final version of the tactical and technical requirements for MBC MBT MBT has not yet been determined; it will be formed according to the results of current research. Moreover, the most general wishes of the customer in the person of the armies of the two countries are known. The "European tank" of the future should have significant advantages over existing equipment and compete on equal terms with the Russian T-14. It is curious that it was “Armata”, which is ahead of modern tanks in all respects, called the main reason for launching the French-German project.
Customers in the face of the armies of Germany and France want to get MBT with improved protection, enhanced weapons and more advanced fire control. It is also necessary to ensure the possibility of full-fledged work in network-centric troop control systems. It implies maximum mechanization and automation of the main processes.
Despite the lack of clear TTTs, members of the ARGE working group repeatedly showed certain materials and revealed general considerations regarding the appearance of promising MBTs. At different times, at the level of general research, the possibility of deep modernization of existing samples or the development of new ones that are distinguished by the most daring innovations was considered.
As part of preliminary studies in the interests of MGCS, the possibility of a deep modernization of Leopard 2 MBT using various promising components was studied. In particular, the issues of replacing a 120 mm gun with a larger caliber gun were studied. However, the relatively old base platform sharply limits the prospects of such a model.
In 2018, KNDS introduced a tank made by combining the Leopard 2 chassis and the Leclerc turret. This product had some advantages over two basic tanks, but it was a pure experiment. Such a pilot project clearly showed the ability of the two countries to cooperate in the field of armored vehicles, but nothing more.
The participating companies also offer various preliminary concept projects. Schemes and three-dimensional images of tanks of a traditional and front-engine layout with an inhabited and automated turret and various options were repeatedly published weapons. Apparently, it is precisely such ideas that will form the basis of the real MGCS project. Which of them are worth attention and will find application on a real tank will be determined during the current SADS P.1 research.
Tank of the distant future
According to current plans, the MGCS pre-production main tanks will leave the assembly shop in 2028, and a full-fledged series will begin only in the mid-thirties. Only at the turn of the forties the German Bundeswehr and the French army will be able to create quite numerous and combat-ready groups of the latest technology of joint development. By this time, 60 years will have passed since the start of the Leopard 2 service, and Leclerc will be preparing for its half-century anniversary.
According to the current work schedule, about 20 years will pass from the start of research and development on MGCS to operational readiness. The rearmament of the two armies is postponed for a long time, but the ARGE working group receives a substantial reserve of time for all work and the creation of a full tank, devoid of shortcomings and shortcomings.
A two-decade journey has already begun with the first step in the form of SADS Part 1. Three companies from two countries are launching the first phase of research aimed directly at creating MGCS. It will be followed by others, which will ultimately lead to the emergence of a completely new “European tank”. Of course, if the countries do not decide to make their own tanks and do not stop cooperation - as it was in the past.